Spotlight on: Sister Mary Comer
In this edition of the Spotlight series, we talk to Sister Mary Comer who was previously the leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She reflects upon the memorable moment when she received the ‘call’ to enter religious life, and discusses the meaning and role of faith, in a vocation that embodies it.
What inspired you to enter religious life?
It was the feeling of a ‘call’. It first hit me when I was on retreat in year nine, when I was in boarding. I thought (the feeling) would go away and live what I saw as a ‘normal’ life, as a mother of children. But it kept coming back. So when I was nearly 20, I decided to go and try if that was the kind of life that I wanted to live or being called to live, and I’m still here 53 years later!
‘the regularities are the early morning starts of quiet and prayer’.
If there are other women who are discerning a vocation in religious life, what advice would you give them?
I’d suggest that, these days, they would pray regularly, they would look around and look at various walks of life because religious life as we know it is changing rapidly. If they are still feeling called, they should look to where they feel they are being called to, and try it out.
What does an average day look like for you as a religious sister?
The average part of it would be having some silent time when I wake up, and some time to pray and focus for the day. My ministries have been very varied, so the days have been different. I was a school teacher for a while, I retrained as a psychologist and was a school counselor for a little while. I worked overseas and set up Centacare and worked as a psychologist and a director there for a long time. I was in congregational leadership for a while. These days I have various ministries. So I suppose the regularities are the early morning starts of quiet and prayer (and the same in the evening), and depending on the ministry that I’m working in, I follow what’s set out for that day.
What is a challenging day?
A challenging day is where it looks like it’s fairly busy and you’ve got a fair bit on the agenda, then something happens that sends the whole lot skewered, and you have to adjust, and I do. But it’s amazing how sometimes you have to do that while the work has to still be caught up on at some point; you encounter someone or something that moves you into a different place.
‘I don’t know how people without faith can manage death, illnesses and major tragedies.’
What is something that only a religious sister would know?
I don’t think there’s anything a religious sister knows or has priority on. I’ve met some beautiful people over my life span, who are very close to God and have taught me a lot. I’ve also learnt from people I’ve mixed with, as much as they have learned from me. So I don’t think I can claim a monopoly on anything that’s special.
What role does faith play in your life as a religious sister?
It’s basic to my calling in the first place. It was that call of faith from the person of Jesus. As I get older, the faith becomes stronger. It’s what sustains me through various life and work situations. I don’t know how people without faith can manage death, illnesses and major tragedies. I need that linchpin to strengthen me through all these.
CCER’s ‘Spotlight’ series showcases individuals working with Catholic organisations across different sectors. We aim to highlight their achievements, motivations, how they overcame challenges and demonstrated their faith in their roles.